A Day in the Life of a High-Tech Liberal Arts Student
By Kenneth Okoth '01
Today's students use technology in their daily lives more than ever
before. Ken Okoth, an intern in the University communications office
in Spring 2001 whose home is Nairobi, Kenya, takes us through a typical
7:10 a.m.: [Loud shrill noise, absolutely annoying] That is the sound
of my alarm clock ringing. It represents the first of many technological
devices that will affect my day, both in and out of class.
7:45 a.m.: [It helps to be well informed. Who said students don't
care about world affairs?] My television comes on automatically. I have
it preprogrammed so I can catch some early-morning news. It also helps
in case I forget to set the alarm clock.
8:15 a.m.: [Like many others students, I consider breakfast a luxury.]
I am getting dressed for my first class. Off goes the television, as
I pull on my sweatshirt and turn on the laptop computer on my desk.
I log on to the campus network and begin to download my e-mail messages.
I respond quickly to one from my family in Nairobi.
The other message is from Barnes and Noble. They send me regular updates
about new offers and deals at their online bookstore. I bought a great
travel guide from them last month. I am not interested in buying anything
now, so I delete this message right away.
I log on to Instant Messenger. Some of my buddies are online, but
none of them is active at this hour. Many are members of Plaisance,
the First-Year Program College in which I am a writing mentor. We live
in the same building, but they can ask me questions through Instant
Messenger without coming directly to my room.
8:35 a.m.: I quickly surf my favorite Web sites and get details on
the major news stories that I am interested in. I also get a quick update
of the weather and stock prices. One of my friends actually invests
online; I am just beginning to learn all about the market. Besides,
I have no money to invest just yet.
9:00 a.m.: [The sound of an opening door from my Instant Messenger
program.] I see that my friend "Tusker" has logged on to his
Instant Messenger. "Tusker" graduated from St. Lawrence last
summer and is now in medical school in Albany. He sends me a quick message
to say hi. We chat briefly, and then log off. TTYL (Talk To You Later),
we promise each other.
9:05 a.m.: [Doing last-minute preparation for class.] I open up an
article for my journalism course and proofread it carefully. Last night
I ran a grammar- and spell-check on my word processor before going to
bed. The program kept suggesting that I change my sentences from the
passive voice. I am happy with the article, and I submit it electronically
into my class's common folder on the network teaching drive, also known
as the T-Drive. I don't need to print out a hard copy because the teacher
and my classmates will read it from the T-Drive and send me their suggestions
for improvement by e-mail.
9:40 a.m.: [Inside an interactive technology classroom on the third
floor of Richardson Hall.] We are about 15 students in Introduction
to Journalism, sitting in a classroom filled with computers. We can
all access the Internet and the University's computer network, where
we can find our work in the folder on the T-Drive that I just sent my
article to, and exchange comments about it, professor and students both.
As a writing minor, I find this one of my best classes, because there
is a lot of direct student feedback and lots of peer critiquing.
Today my article is one of those that come up for in-class review.
All the students log on to their individual computers, open up a copy
of my assignment and proceed to analyze it.
Meanwhile, the professor opens up my article on the SmartBoard, which
works like a giant computer screen. Our professor asks the students
for their comments and suggestions, which she puts up on the SmartBoard
using features that combine the powers of a computer and the visibility
of regular "old-fashioned" classroom blackboards.
We have time to analyze articles by three students. The teacher announces
when the next assignment is due in the common class folder on the T-Drive,
and reminds us that she has also placed a relevant set of handouts on
the network T-Drive.
10:50 a.m.: [I stopped by the coffee machine in the ODY library on
the way to my next class in Carnegie Hall. The machine is a piece of
older technology that can be a godsend.] This is Professor Ruth Kreuzer's
special topics course on the cultural and political history of St. Petersburg,
Russia. She begins class with a video clip on the life of Dmitri Shostakovich,
the 20th-century Russian composer of classical music.
We all have to make two PowerPoint presentations as part of this class,
and today one student does a brief presentation about music during the
era of Stalin. She refers to several sources in her presentation, including
the Internet, which leads us into the next part of class.
Instead of a traditional term paper, this course requires us to complete
a detailed Web project. As we spend the last 20 minutes of class doing
individual research on the Internet, we listen to music by Shostakovich.
I am researching the life and works of poet Anna Akhmatova. (Link: http://it.stlawu.edu/~rkreuzer/pete13/pete13.htm)
2:30 p.m.: [Back in the Carnegie Language Center, doing my job as
a teaching assistant for German 102.] We use various multimedia programs
and facilities in the language classes and lab sessions. I am in charge
of a lab session that has 10 students. We go over questions from last
week's assignment, which was a series of repetition and listening exercises
on a CD-ROM that accompanies the course textbook.
The main task of today's class is a dialogue exercise. In groups of
twos and threes, the students play the roles of tourist and a local
policeman, asking for and giving specific directions and general information
about a mythical town. Using a digital video camera, we record all the
students playing out their dialogue scenes in front of the group. After
all groups have presented, the class views the footage, laughing and
Next week we have an Internet research project too. Students will visit
the Web sites of different cities, museums and sports clubs in Germany,
and present their findings to the whole group. We might even join some
German-speaking chat rooms or join in an international videoconference.
4:00 p.m.: [Rehearsal time with the Laurentian Singers.] We are learning
El Fuego, a long and complex piece in Spanish. The director has placed
audio files of the words and music for this piece on the network, so
I can use it to practice and learn the piece when I am back in my room,
or anywhere else on campus where I can use a computer and headphones.
8:00 p.m.: [Back in the library, working on one of the many public
computer workstations.] I am writing a paper for my seminar in African
studies on the life of Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner who
read at St. Lawrence last year. Apart from the traditional sources,
I gather more information from online databases and scholarly journals
that we don't have in the library but are available electronically.
One of the Web sites I use has transcripts of an interview and an audio
file of a speech that Soyinka made recently.
9:30 p.m.: Back in my room. I watch Beauty and the Beast on the campus
television network. The movie is in French, but has English subtitles.
As I watch the movie, I also browse through the career planning Web
site, where I can get the latest information about summer internships
and job opportunities that I am interested in. I check my e-mail once
again and read the Dean's Dailies, inspiring motivational thoughts that
Dean Cissy Petty sends out to students, parents and alumni every school
11:35 p.m.: I log on to Instant Messenger. A lot of my friends are
online, but I feel exhausted. I exchange quick greetings with a friend
in Oregon. One of the first-year students asks me a question about dangling
modifiers. It is not such an easy concept to deal with through Instant
Messenger, so we set up an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. I log
12:05 a.m.: I would like to order a pizza roll, but I decide not to.
I change into my pajamas, set my alarm clock for seven o'clock, jump
into bed, and pull the blankets over me. For a brief moment, I think
about how much my school days are dependent on technology. Then I fall
asleep, knowing only so well that the shrill noise of my alarm clock
will come much too fast for my liking, and another college day full
of technology will be upon me again.